When he was young, Matt had a copy of the first Boy Scouts of America handbook which he refers to as the original Dangerous Book for Boys. He was telling me the other day about his favorite lesson in the book, the one he always wanted to try, the lesson on how to trap a raccoon.
As he tells it, you make a small hole in a hollow fallen log, place a piece of tin in the bottom of the hole, and drive a nail into the log in such a way that the nail head sticks into the opening of the hole you made. There is a large enough opening for the raccoon to slip its open paw into the hole in order to grasp the tin, but once it’s paw is fisted around the tin the raccoon isn’t able pull the paw back through the opening. It appears that a raccoon would rather hold on to the shiny tin until it is either caught or dies than to let go of the tin and free itself.
The world lays “shiny” objects before us constantly – things like bigger houses, faster cars, and designer clothes to name only a few – and culture presses us to take hold of these things. We grab onto the “tin” set before us and in our determination to gain status, to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, to find fulfillment we won’t let go. Once our grip is set it continually takes more to maintain the lifestyle that we’ve created; it takes more income to afford more expensive things so that we can impress ourselves with what we have. We drive ourselves into debt and then lament the fact that we can’t stay ahead of the bills.
In a society driven by consumerism it is difficult to release our grasp on material things; however, like the raccoon, this is how we gain our freedom. When your hand is clenched in a fist you can hold tightly to the thing inside, but you can’t pick up something else with that hand (no matter how many times my one year old tries to disprove this fact). When our lives are clenched firmly around the things society calls good, we render ourselves less able to receive the things that God calls good.
Like the raccoon we have a choice: we can choose to hold tightly to things and remain trapped in our culture’s mantra of more, more, more; or we can choose to open our hand and free ourselves from the “rat race.” Releasing the notion that we must live up to another’s standards frees us to better enjoy the things we’ve been given.
I don’t believe that wealth and material goods are bad (we definitely have our share of stuff), but I do believe that, as a Christian, I have a responsibility to watch my heart and motives with regard to the things of this world. I must be willing to release the treasure of this world to gain treasure in heaven.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Matthew 6:21 (ESV)